Why Arthur Muller isn’t a good leader

Hello Arthur. We never met, but your signature was written on the employment contract I signed on 25 February last year with Neomax. You are after all the director of this secondment agency in the IT-sector.

My last job as Support Engineer with ID-ware International in Den Haag offered a very good salary. I was less satisfied with the substance of the job however. Because it was a small organization I had to deal with matters like shipments, the warehouse, facility management and catering next to the main task in IT support. I noticed this job did not have enough focus on IT and these secundary activities didn’t bring added value to my CV. There were no career or training opportunities.

When I changed my LinkedIn profile to show interest in new job opportunities, one of your recruiters found me. After some good conversations I decided to sign the contract. I quit my job with a permanent contract and a very good salary for a contract of seven months and much less salary. I thought it was worth it because your company offered good training opportunities and a job in IT Service Management, which I considered valuable for the advancement of my career.

On 25 February almost no one saw the COVID-19 crisis coming to the Netherlands. As the start date of 1 April drew near, ominous news seeped in slowly. I was reassured by your recruiter and account manager that it would be all right. Until 31 March. It seemed like an early April Fools joke, but at this very short term you decided to annul the contracts with your new employees who would start with your company on 1 April. You couldn’t place these employees at your customers due to lack of work. Legally, the one month trial period in your employment contracts enabled you to annul the contracts before the trial period even started. Fortunately, we could sign a new contract with 1 May as the starting date.

I wasn’t surprised when I heard at the end of April that this contract would be anulled as well. After this there was no new contract, only the promise that one would be signed when I could be placed at one of your customers. This never happened, because after many job applications and arguing with the Dutch UWV over my unemployment benefits (which were only granted after appealing their decision), I found a new job in July. I never had concerns for my financial situation during my unemployment, but I wouldn’t wish it even on you to be unemployed for some months and live with such uncertainty.

Arthur, the impression I’ve gotten of you is that money is all that matters to you. You threw your employees under the bus without blinking because it was to your benefit. You made maximum use of the legal space you had to annul contracts before the trial period even started. In doing so, you broke the moral contract of trust that an employer and an employee should have in each other. I don’t know whether my impression is correct; you’ve never made any effort to contact me directly to explain your decision. You hid behind your employees, who you ordered to bring the bad news.

Watch this video video. And read this for more information on Barry-Wehmiller, the company mentioned in that video. Then reflect on your actions.

Had I been in your position I would have considered the options to prevent annulling contracts. As director I could have cut my own salary. I could have considered not to pay dividends to the shareholders. I could have asked existing employees to take voluntary unpaid leave. I don’t think you gave other options any consideration at all.

Suppose the other options were genuinely impossible. Then I could have helped the employees for who I no longer had work to find a job elsewhere. At the very least I could have called them in person to explain why I had to take this decision. Neomax isn’t a large company, the monthly influx of new employees may have been five or ten people at maximum. You could easily call those in one or two hours. Was it impossible to apply for the COVID-19 support measures for businesses which had been set up by the state? I don’t know because your employees were not informed about this. Even a minimal amount of effort was not worth your time.

In the best case you can get away with this as a company. The employees whose contracts have been annulled move on to other jobs elsewhere and it didn’t cost you one cent in salaries. In the worst case it will sicken your culture because your other employees see how indifferent you are to their fate. The least I could is leaving a review of your company on Glassdoor to warn potential new employees of Neomax about you.

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